Meredith H. Lair

Meredith H. Lair

Associate Professor

U.S. History: The Vietnam War, war and American society, veterans, collective memory, consumerism, militarism, conflict tourism, American social history

Prof. Lair's work examines warfare and its relationship to American society and culture, with particular emphasis on how knowledge and memories of the past are constructed and disseminated over time. She is the author of Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam War, which examines the non-combat experiences of American soldiers in Vietnam. She finds that the US military relied heavily on consumerism and material abundance to maintain soldier morale, a phenomenon that continues to the present day. Her research on this topic continues, especially the role that culture can play as an instrument of war. Her current projects examine Vietnam War soldier photography and sexual assault in the Vietnam War. Prof. Lair also developed content and wrote the exhibit script for the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation’s Vietnam Era Educational Center, the first permanent museum about the Vietnam War in the United States.

Prof. Lair's teaching interests include war and American society, post-1945 US social and cultural history, the Vietnam War, and historical methods. 

Current Research

The [In]Visible Soldier: Vietnam Veteran Activism and the Militarization of America. In progress.

Shot in Vietnam: American Soldiers Document Their Vietnam Wars. In progress.

Selected Publications

“Survivors of Natural Disaster: American Identity in Vietnam War Films” in Martial Culture, Silver Screen: War Movies and the Construction of American Identity, LSU Press, 2020

The Most Important Legacy of the Vietnam War,” Whiteboard for War Room, the blog of the US Army War College, 28 October 2019

"The Education Center at The Wall and the Re-writing of History," Public Historian, Winter 2012.

Armed with Abundance: Consumerism and Soldiering in the Vietnam WarUniversity of North Carolina Press, 2011.

“Red Coat Theater: Negotiating Identity in Occupied Philadelphia, 1777-78,” in Pennsylvania’s Revolution, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010.

Grants and Fellowships

Minerva Research Fellow, United States Naval Academy, 2013-14

Courses Taught

HIST 120: Why We Fight

HIST 300: Introduction to Historical Method

HIST 370: War and American Society

HIST 377/387: The Vietnam War

HIST 389: 9/11

HIST 389: Veterans in American History

HIST 389: Legacies of the Vietnam War

HIST 499: Senior Seminar in History

HIST 615: Buy American: Consumption in 20th Century America

HIST 677: The Vietnam War

HIST 679: War and Remembrance

HIST 797: Research Seminar in History



PhD, History, Penn State University, 2004

BA, History and Theater, Ohio University, 1994

Recent Presentations

Panelist, “Soldiers on Screen: Da 5 Bloods” (film webinar), Missing in Action Recovery & Identification Project, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2021

Panelist, “Mission Accomplished? The Rise and Fall of the Education Center at The Wall,” Organization of American Historians, 2020 (canceled due to pandemic)

“Uncanny Vietnam,” New Perspectives on the History of the Vietnam War Symposium, Department of History, Kent State University, 2020

“Shopping in Vietnam,” Manpower & Morale after Tet, Center for Military, War, and Society Studies, University of Kansas, 2019

Panelist, “Sex/Wars: Gender on the Front Lines,” Berkshire Conference on the History or Women, Genders, and Sexualities, 2017

"Constructed & Contested: History, Memory, & the Vietnam War," Minnesota Humanities Center, 2016

Chair & Commentator, “Rethinking the Other: Race and Wartime Foreign Policy from WWII through the Vietnam War,” Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, 2016

"Soldiering in Vietnam: An Alternative View," Baker Peace Conference on "The Vietnam War: A 50-Year Retrospective," Ohio University, 2015

"State of the Field: Military History," Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, 2015

"Classroom Taboo: Teaching the [Un]American Way of War Using the Smithsonian’s 'The Price of Freedom' Exhibit," Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, 2015


In the Media

Beer, Napalm, and Hookers: The Vietnam War & Hedonism with Meredith Lair,” (Podcast), 27 April 2020.

The Men Killed on a Single, Bloody Day in Vietnam, and the Haunting Wall that Memorializes Them,” Washington Post, 25 May 2018.

Vietnam: Those Who Served,” Gatehouse Media for USA Today, 31 March 2018

A Photo That Changed the Course of the Vietnam War,” New York Times, 1 February 2018

"The Draft," PBS documentary, air date 27 April 2015, "Is Hollywood America's Best Truth Teller on Iraq?", 20 March 2013

C-SPAN American History TV, coverage of HIST 389: Legacies of the Vietnam War, air date 10 November 2012

"Easy Living in a Hard War: Behind the Lines in Vietnam," Military History Quarterly, 2 May 2012.

C-SPAN Book TV, on Armed with Abundance, aired 16 October 2011

Dissertations Supervised

John Lemza, Tracing American Exceptionalism During the Cold War: American Military Communities in West Germany, 1946-1990 (2014)

Kirklin Bateman, Project 100,000: New Standards Men and the U.S. Military in Vietnam (2014)